printed in Ultra Cycling Magazine

Winter is almost here. Most athletes are ready for a break from the long summer season. All athletes, especially cyclists, that feel they do not need to take a break and switch to some other activities are doing more harm than good. It is a good idea to take a break both physically and mentally from the disciplines of racing and training. Cross training in the winter months are not considered as the “off season” as you will not be sitting on the couch. It is a switch to other aerobic and strength activities with a decrease in volume and intensity until February or March.

I tell all of my clients that the body responds to a system of cycles throughout the year. I tell them to remember that stress plus recovery equals adaptation. This simple rule goes for everything you do from a single workout to a week’s program to a month’s plan and finally to a whole season. Without a recovery or transition phase at the end of the season you will not be ready to adapt to the next season.

It’s usually hard to take time off from the structures of your training plan and the challenge is to find alternatives that will keep you fulfilled and satisfied. The transition or cross training phase can include activities like commuting or cyclocross, running, hiking, weight training, snow shoeing, skiing, and classes most often found in a gym environment like flexibility classes.

The gym or weight room will offer a wide variety of activities to keep you motivated. Weight training is an excellent way to continue with your strength while improving total body muscular fitness. Weight training should be included with your aerobic fitness throughout the winter months at least 2-4 times each week. Find a good Trainer or ask your coach to help write a program that will fit in with your future cycling needs and goals.

If you do not have access to a gym, hiking can be added into your training plan the same as running and jogging but you can add a little more intensity as you do not get the jarring on joints and ligaments like running. Pick long hikes and areas with steep climbs, as this will give you an added cardiovascular benefit.

Cross-country skiing, both classic and skate skiing, and snow shoeing are great ways to enjoy the winter months and are usually another challenging way to work on cardiovascular fitness. They offer the added benefit of increased anaerobic training because of the use of multiple upper body muscle groups that are less often used in cycling.

Flexibility is always important and often overlooked during the summer months. Flexibility helps connective tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) resist injury during our regular activities. Flexibility also helps to improve core strength and agility. You can find several different types of flexibility classes at your local club or gym to take about three times during the week. Two main classes that I recommend you look for are the Fit Ball/Medicine Ball classes and yoga.

Cross training is a way to find variety and challenges from our other regular sports while adding activities that are beneficial to our healthy lives.